Community Hero: La Jolla student Grace Sun looks to build understanding and funding for science through art

Art by Bishop's School senior Grace Sun brings in scientific concepts.
Art by Bishop’s School senior Grace Sun brings in scientific concepts.
(Grace Sun)

Blending her love of art and science, Grace Sun, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, is on a mission to make complicated scientific concepts more accessible to the masses. In doing so, she seeks to raise money and awareness for scientific causes.

“I think science and art are typically boxed within themselves,” Grace said. “Scientists are organized and methodical, and artists are creative and overflowing. By drawing science away from what we usually see, like journals full of scientific jargon, and using art to explore [scientific ideas], it can make these concepts accessible.

For the record:

4:04 p.m. Dec. 13, 2022This article has been corrected to state that Grace Sun is a senior at The Bishop’s School.

“Some scientific concepts that are abstract and hard to comprehend can be made clear through art and visualization. I’m trying to bridge science and art to provide more access to these discoveries that deserve to be appreciated.”

Community Heroes logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Last year, Grace helped start the Melodies for Remedies program to bring virtual concerts to people in assisted-living facilities and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the group has expanded to incorporate art therapy techniques for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s until I saw images of the brain and highly detailed renderings of what [Alzheimer’s disease] looks like in the brain. I realized it really affects people,” she said.

She said she established a relationship with the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers to bring Melodies for Remedies art therapy to the patients.

“We get the patients involved with handbells and playing ‘50s music,” she said.

Grace presented benefit concerts and bake sales at The Bishop’s School to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and care. To date, she has collected more than $3,000.

Last year, Grace entered The New York Times STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) writing contest, which encouraged entrants to explain a concept, answer a question or explore an issue in 500 words or less in a way a layperson could understand.

“I wanted to look at music and art therapy since I was already doing that, but I wondered if it could help in other aspects besides Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “So my topic was how music can help arrhythmia [irregular heartbeat]. I had never analyzed the heart, but arrhythmia is so common, yet no one has found a cure.

“I learned through some art therapy practices [that] if you listen to music with a steady beat, it can help with arrhythmia by steadying your heartbeat.”

Her essay earned her one of 16 runner-up spots in the contest, which drew more than 3,500 entries.

Grace said she currently is working in an internship for UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center, studying immunotherapy for breast cancer. To help give people hope, she has created images that document a patient’s own immune system attacking cancer cells.

Grace Sun and her independent study research supervisor, Lani Keller
Grace Sun and her independent study research supervisor, Lani Keller, are pictured after a cancer immunotherapy research presentation for The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.
(Song Zhang)

She said she hopes her work — as well as the blending of two otherwise different concepts — inspires others to pursue their passion and a better understanding of science.

“I hope it inspires change not only in younger people but those that suffer from diseases they don’t understand,” Grace said. “Misunderstanding can lead to fear, so I hope by using art to explain these things, it can bring better understanding and hope.

“I also want to help people realize that more subjects are more connected than they seem to be. I know people that love English and math, engineering and art, and my hope is that what I do will show that it is possible to explore different passions. Seemingly different causes can be from the same heart.”

Going forward, she hopes to continue to explore art and science in higher education and her career and will continue to motivate young people — especially girls — to find a way to tie their passions to science.

“Historically, women have been underrepresented in science, so I hope to be part of the force that changes that,” she said. “I know a lot of girls that love art and don’t see how it can connect to science. I hope to show it can be a stepping stone. I want to initiate further change and discovery of what they can do.”

The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others.